Tuesday, July 21, 2009

For Easy Identification of Cattle, Specialist Says to Consider Freeze Branding

By David Burton
University Extension

For over 40 years there has been an issue among beef cattle producers on what is the most effective, reasonably-priced means to individually identify animals.
Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension, says that over the years, beef producers have tried neck chains, ear tags, brisket tags, tattoos, brands and electronic ear tags to individually identify cattle. Each of the methods has pros and cons.
In the 1960’s a technique known as Cyro Branding was introduced. It involved super cooling of copper branding irons and when the iron was applied for a period of time to the hair and hide of an animal it destroyed the natural hair color on non-white cattle. When new hair came back in it was white.
The process was less painful to the animals and hide damage was minimal compared to hot iron branding. Freeze branding was viewed as very acceptable for within herd identification, but would likely be unacceptable for ownership brands. Since that time several states, including Missouri, have accepted freeze branding as an ownership brand.
Remember the brand should last the lifetime of the animal and save you considerable expense in ear tags and frustration over lost identity of cattle for your production records.
“The best feature of a freeze brand is that it is permanent and readable from a distance. The brand should last the lifetime of the animal and save a producer considerable expense in ear tags and frustration over lost identity of cattle for your production records,” said Cole.
The biggest problems are that CyroBranding can be time consuming to apply, securing the equipment and supplies for branding is not always easy and if you’re not careful, some of the brands do not come out clearly.
Cole says that although CyroBranding has been used for over 40 years, it has not been perfected. However, some folks can get readable brands most of the time.
According to Cole, they key ingredients to a readable brand appear to be the following.
* Copper irons one-quarter thick; 1 inch to 1 ½ inches from face to back and 4 inches high.
* Hair clippers suitable for close clipping.
* The coolant may be a mix of dry ice and 95 percent isopropyl, ethyl or methyl alcohol. Dry ice in gasoline can be used as well as liquid nitrogen.
* At least two persons and a good squeeze chute.
* A stop-watch or watch with an easily visible second hand.
* And patience.
Depending on the number of characters in the brand, Cole says it may take three to 10 minutes per animal to brand.
“The ear tag has probably met with the greatest acceptance, but they do get pulled out, the numbers fade and sometimes they are hard to read from a distance,” said Cole.
For more information on freeze branding cattle contact any of the MU Extension livestock specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Mt. Vernon, (417) 466-3102; Gary Naylor in Dallas County, (417) 345-7551; and Dona Goede in Cedar County, (417) 276-3313.

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